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Monte Harris and Steve Meisen plan Goat Island ivy removal to save trees, heron habitat

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - A local man fears ivy is killing the trees on Goat Island. A local man has endeavored to save the habitat of 30 pairs of nesting herons on West Linn's Goat Island, just off the riverbanks at Burnside Park, by removing the invasive ivy that is slowly killing the island's trees.

Monte Harris, a native of Milwaukie and currently a Happy Valley resident, has been on a mission to save trees across the region from invasive ivy for the past year and a half, clearing ivy from nearly 2,000 trees across Gladstone, Molalla and West Linn.

Ivy, which is not native to the region, will root itself around a tree, competing for water, nutrients and sunlight, until the tree dies.

According to Harris, some of the ivy around trees on Goat Island is so thick, he estimated it had been growing there for decades.

After tackling ivy at half a dozen parks in the area, Harris was curious to learn which areas in the region had already had ivy removed. Through a bit of research, he learned that Goat Island was in desperate need of ivy removal.

By way of his work at various parks throughout the region, Harris eventually met Steve Meisen, the steward of Burnside Park who has has been removing ivy from West Linn parks for 25 years. Meisen and Harris are now collaborating on an ivy removal event at the island in July, once the herons have left their nests.

Harris said he and Meisen went out to the island for the first time Saturday, April 3. Not wanting to scare away the nesting herons, the two stuck to the north side of the island, away from the birds, and used only their quietest tools. In just three days on the island, the pair managed to remove ivy from 100 trees on the island.

With a whole crew working on the island for a weekend in July, Harris hopes they can pull enough ivy to save the heron habitat.

Harris and Meisen plan to hold a July 17-18 SOLVE ivy removal work party on the island after the herons have left their nests. Harris remarked at the immense satisfaction he gets from removing ivy from each tree.

"I go really really fast, and that's my intent," he said. "I get so much satisfaction to take ivy off the trees because I treat it like it's an enemy."

While Harris was pleased with how much ivy he and Meisen removed on their first day on the island, he was less enthused when he fell out of his kayak into the Willamette while paddling to the island.

COURTESY PHOTO - Monte Harris holds a large ivy root removed from a tree on Goat Island. "I guess it had been a while since I've been a kayak and I got excited," he said, adding that he wore more river-friendly shoes on his next trip to the island.

Harris also noted that those who sign up for the July work party should be experienced kayakers, canoers or paddle boarders.

While Harris is passionate about removing ivy from trees at Goat Island and parks all around the region, he is more broadly interested in collaborative efforts to combat climate change.

"If we don't do something to help save the natural world, it's not going to go good," he said.

"We need volunteers to help reclaim native environments. Trees are the lungs of the earth and truly man's best friend."COURTESY PHOTO - Goat Island, an island in the Willamette River just off the banks from Burnside Park, is home to 30 pairs of nesting herons.


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